I knew traveling with my mother was going to be…an experience.
But I felt pretty well equipped.
I’ve worked out most of my mom issues in therapy. I meditate regularly! My mom is fun times! YEAH MOTHER DAUGHTER BONDING!
But one thing I should’ve known when it comes to Rita is that you can never really be ‘pretty well equipped’ because…
Rita is predictably unpredictable.
And I mean that in the best possible way, (MOST OF THE TIME.)
(For those just joining us, my siblings and I tend to call my mom by her first name which might seem disrespectful but is actually a term of endearment because…my mom is just such a Rita. If you knew her, you’d understand. READ ON.)
The flight to Miami was packed and my mom and I found ourselves sitting behind each other in separate rows, each of us in an emergency exit row. I was fine with this but also jealous because Rita got a window seat while I was stuck in the middle, sandwiched between a man who was on his way home after an 11 hour flight from Israel and so, kept dozing off on my shoulder and a girl who was reading all about Charlie Sheen’s mental breakdown which was fine except she kept falling asleep into her magazine and I couldn’t read along. Ugh.
So, before we boarded the plane, the ticketing agent wanted to make sure we were okay with our seating arrangements.
Ticketing Agent (to me): Ma’am, you are sitting in an emergency exit row. Are you willing and able to help in the event of an emergency?
Me: (freaking tired) Yeah. No problem.
My Mom: (piping up behind me in line) I’m her mother! I’ll smack her in the head if she doesn’t cooperate!
Ticketing Agent: I HEAR THAT.
Ticketing Agent (to my mom): Ma’am, you are seated in an emergency exit row. Are you willing and able to help in the event of an emergency?
My Mom: I’m actually going to make my daughter help out instead.
Ticketing Agent: Um. That’s not the correct answer.
We made it onto the flight and into our respective emergency exit rows with lots of leg room and oh so sexy Delta economy class luxury! As previously discussed, I was seated between Fall Asleep On You and Fall Asleep On My Magazine while Rita was chattering happily away in her window seat behind me to the couple next to her, two young lovely people from Brooklyn who not only wanted to talk to her but kept asking her advice about raising children and how to keep their sanity with a four year old and should they have a third child ???
(For the record, from what I overheard sitting in front of them, Rita thinks 4 is a fantastic age but can be sort of like the Terrible Twos except now they have way more verbal skills at 4 so it can be HARD and OMG totally have a third child, I HAVE FOUR! It was a totally crazy experience but adding the third kid is the easiest because you just stop caring really!)
I fell asleep for most of the flight and later, when I asked Rita if she kept that couple talking the whole time she was all OH NOT A BIT! I DOZED OFF FOR AWHILE TOO! AND WHEN I WOKE UP? WE ALL SHARED A SNACK TOGETHER!
So, I’m stuck in a middle seat trying to sleep and my mother is behind me with her two new best friends eating cheese and crackers.
ANYWAY. That’s not the point. That’s just an example of what my mom is all about. (i.e./socializing with random people, eating their food, etc.)
So! Before takeoff, before they secured the cabin door, before Rita merrily ate some strangers’ crackers, there was…a situation.
Because, this is my life. And situations like these tend to follow me around or something.
Or else people just get really cranky on planes in general.
From what I can piece together, two women were flying to Miami together except it was sort of a last minute thing and they didn’t have assigned seats. So, before boarding, the ticketing agent alerted them that there were two available seats, both in emergency exit rows. The women assumed this meant they were sitting next to each other except…that was not the case. Like Rita and myself, they were sitting in two separate rows, one in front of the other.
ON THE AISLE, I MIGHT ADD.
SO WHAT WERE THEY COMPLAINING ABOUT? GOD ONLY KNOWS.
So! One of the women pulls aside the flight attendant as he’s scrambling around trying to find space for everyone’s carry-on and she immediately attacks and is all EXCUSE ME? I AM NOT SITTING NEXT TO MY FRIEND AND I NEED TO BE.
And this amazing Delta flight attendant gave her this crazy look and was all WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
And she just went crazy on him and was all SOMEONE TOLD US WE WERE SITTING TOGETHER AND WE ARE NOT AND YOU NEED TO RECTIFY THIS IMMEDIATELY.
The best Delta flight attendant ever calmly said, Ma’am, please don’t argue with me. I don’t exactly know what’s going on but these are your seats…
I AM NOT ARGUING WITH YOU. I NEED YOU TO SWITCH MY SEAT.
At this point, the man just threw up his hands, gave up and was all LET ME GO GET A TICKETING AGENT FOR YOU…and walked off the plane.
A few seconds later, he returned with one of my mom’s new best friends, the ticketing agent of YOU ARE SEATED IN AN EMERGENCY EXIT ROW, ARE YOU WILLING AND ABLE, etc. fame.
Ma’am, what seems to be the problem?
YOU TOLD US THAT WE WERE SITTING TOGETHER AND NOW WE ARE NOT AND I NEED YOU TO FIX THAT.
Um, ma’am? I told you that you were sitting in emergency exit rows. I did not say they were two seats together. The flight is simply too full and we did not have two seats near each other.
THERE IS ONLY ONE EMERGENCY EXIT ROW, screamed the woman. SO THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.
I might add that at this point, I laughed out loud because right above her head, there was a sign that said EMERGENCY EXIT ROWS (plural!!) with two arrows pointing to the TWO emergency exit rows. (Which, of course, Rita and I were both in, on opposite sides of the aisle from this woman, DEAR LORD.)
No, ma’am, asserted the ticketing agent. There are actually TWO emergency exit rows.
I HAVE NEVER IN ALL MY LIFE BEEN TREATED LIKE THIS, screeched the woman.
I should pause this fascinating encounter to tell you, if it wasn’t obvious, that by now, almost the ENTIRE plane is watching this shit go down. I mean, people are just gaping at this woman because…she is totally crazy?
I, for one, am trying to make sense of the situation and am failing miserably.
I mean, the flight from JFK to Miami is about two and a half hours.
She booked a flight last minute.
She wants to sit near her friend but she can’t so instead, she’s sitting IN FRONT of her friend.
Apparently, this is a huge problem.
I’m still so freaking curious about this.
The girl next to me with the Charlie Sheen magazine whispered to me WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE IMPORTANT ABOUT THIS?
I had no idea. I still don’t. Perhaps I am missing something but…why was it that necessary for the two of them to be next to each other for a two and a half hour flight? WHY ARE PEOPLE THIS CRAZY? THEY CAN’T BE. CAN THEY?
But I am missing out on telling you the best part of this story.
So, while this lady is screaming at Delta employees, Rita is behind me, trying desperately hard to bite her tongue.
You see, Rita suffers from an illness called I LIKE TO TELL PEOPLE WHAT I THINK.
Which in and of itself is not a bad thing.
This one time? When I was small? Rita overheard a mom call her kid a jerk in the supermarket.
“You know,” said Rita gently. “You shouldn’t talk that way to your child.”
“BACK OFF,” snapped the woman.
And then she promptly burst into tears and wailed YOU’RE RIGHT! I’M SO STRESSED OUT! PARENTING IS SO HARD! And literally wept on my mother’s shoulder in the frozen food aisle while Rita gave her a pep talk and told her everything was going to be okay.
So, um. You could say that maybe my mom should mind her own business but I’m telling you that she has a REALLY REALLY hard time doing that. Like, really.
This used to embarrass the crap out of me.
“Um, mom? PLEASE STOP TELLING ASHLEY THAT THE CHEMICALS IN THE DIET COKE SHE’S DRINKING ARE GOING TO GIVE HER CANCER. MORTIFYING.”
But now, I just understand this is the way my mother operates and that it occasionally can be a good thing. Like that time she told some guy to pick up the trash he threw out of his car window and he stepped out of his vehicle all guilty, picked up the litter and apologized to my mom as if she were a cop.
BUT I AM GETTING OFF TOPIC.
So anyway, my mom is just staring in disbelief as this lady goes nuts in Aisle 10 and finally after this woman screams that she’s never been treated like this before DOESN’T ANYONE KNOW ABOUT GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE?!, Rita pipes up from a few feet away:
UM. EXCUSE ME? PEOPLE ARE DYING IN JAPAN.
The entire plane was silently all OH SNAP, SOME BRAVE LADY JUST PLAYED THE JAPAN CARD.
The woman turned on my mother in a rage and was all SORRY, DIDN’T THINK I ASKED FOR YOUR OPINION.
Rita calmly shrugged and said, “I’m just saying, I think a little perspective would help.”
IF JAPAN IS IN SO MUCH TROUBLE, snapped the woman, WHY DON’T YOU GO OVER THERE AND HELP INSTEAD OF SITTING ON THIS PLANE???
I’m just suggesting you calm down, said Rita.
I’M JUST SAYING MIND YOUR OWN FREAKING BUSINESS, shrieked the woman.
And that was the end of that.
Rita’s two best friends next to her just about died laughing while some other people around her just started nodding and murmuring “Yes, she’s right, Japan, mmhmmm” which was like, the most bizarre thing of all time.
I felt a little weird not standing up for Rita to this lady because…this woman was just screaming at my mother and I felt myself starting to get very protective and upset.
On the other hand, I’m not sure my mother was right.
I mean, you can’t just go around butting into people’s business, being all PICK UP YOUR LITTER, DON’T CALL YOUR KID A JERK, PEEPS IN JAPAN!
But, Rita does.
After the whole exchange, I actually felt kind of proud so I turned around and slapped my mom a high five.
PREACH IT RITA, I said.
Then I offered my fist because I wanted to do that fist bump thing? Except I like when you fist bump someone and then open your hand and kind of make a swoosh sound? I call this ‘blowing it up’, you know what I’m saying?
So this is how and why I found myself turning around in my airplane seat, offering my fist to my mom to bump saying rather loudly BLOW IT UP, RITA.
Rita stared back at me blankly.
LET’S BLOW IT UP, I said again.
Finally, one of Rita’s new friends next to her remarked, Um. Don’t think you should be saying that on a plane.
I am my mother’s daughter, right?
Just being all around inappropriate?
I SWEAR I ONLY WANTED TO FIST BUMP. NOT BLOW UP THIS PLANE.
I decided to turn around and face the front of the aircraft for the rest of the flight.
And everything ended alright.
Rita and I arrived safely in Miami, me with a neck cramp from trying to sleep in the middle seat, Rita perfectly well-rested and well-fed thanks to her new best friends who GAVE HER SNACKS.
THAT WAS A FUN FLIGHT, RIGHT? said Rita.
And before I could smack her, we walked out into the 80 degree weather and both audibly sighed.
Ohmygosh, I said. I think I forgot that this kind of weather exists.
Me too, breathed Rita.
And then we bumped fists.
And we blew that shit up.